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Zanzibar – Part 32

November 2, 2016

Zanzibar – Part 32

by Keith Channing

“What did you say?” Rodney asked, almost shouting.

“I said,” the Arikatoteshika replied, in a low, quiet, calm voice, “you need to know about the important, dreadful things that are to come. Events that will visit themselves upon you sooner than you can begin to imagine.”

“You said something about curdling my soul…”

“Yes, I did.”

“And?”

“And what?”

“Exactly. What are these things?”

“If you’ll stop talking for a second, I’ll tell you.”

The Arikatoteshika’s normal appearance, you will recall, was as a near-amorphous, semi-translucent mass, looking like a large, see-through slug in shifting hues of mother-of-pearl, its insides floating around like a lava lamp. Top centre of its body is a dome with, at its centre, a large, vertically aligned, ovoid orifice. The dome is topped by four octopus-like tentacles covered in suckers.

That’s his normal appearance. While Rodney was looking at him, the Arikatoteshika shimmered, and morphed, appearing in the next instant as a man, only not. He was at once more than a man and less than a man. Standing about three metres in height, he towered over Rodney. He was covered in long, sleek, glossy hair, the colour of which was a close match to that of a car Rodney’s father once owned. Burnt ochre, it was called. He was clearly humanoid, though this was hard to see, as the only part of the body not covered by long hair was the face. It was the face of Rodney’s father. The whole thing though, was somehow… insubstantial.

“How the… How did you do that?” Rodney asked, his brain refusing to believe the information coming from his eyes. “Which is the real you?”

“Neither,” the Arikatoteshika replied, “and both. Let me explain. You can’t see me in my natural state, because we, the Cnazvu*, are not of this dimension. What you see, Rodney Dean of Earth, is a projection that will create in your mind the impression I wish to convey.” He morphed again, becoming a precise, though somewhat ghostly, image of Rodney’s father.

Rodney looked at this image of his father through half-closed eyes, a steely expression on his face. “Okay, Norman—”

“I’ve told you never to call me that!” the illusion of Rodney’s father screamed, transforming immediately back to its default, slug-like state.

“Then I suggest,” Rodney said with a bravado and defiance that he barely possessed, “that you quit messing with my head. If I’m supposed to be your main man in the Village, you’ll get more cooperation from me if you show me a bit of respect than if you treat me like a lump of dog-turd you’ve just stepped in.”

“Oh, bravo, Rodney. At last, a human with cojones. I knew I’d chosen well with you. Your Motorhead Gang impressed me, which is why I brought you here, and I have been proven right. Now, I have Chadwick and Tracey working with me in the Smoke, William in the Settlement and you in the Village. A powerful team, I think. One thing, though: look after Jacob, he’s an effective deputy and he’ll be good support for you in the things you must do.”

“What things? And what about the gang getting back together and going home again?”

“That’s not going to happen. Not for a long time, anyway. My three realms are not compatible. It is impossible for residents to pass between realms, other than by my will, without suffering damage; damage that will eventually kill them. It must by now be clear to you, however, that these things are happening. You have seen Settlement-dwellers in your midst, by their will, not mine; and you know of incursions from the Smoke when the two moons are full. Both of these transits result from minor bugs in the system. You know how it works: something unexpected happens once, and there’s always a smart-Alec around to work out why, then to manipulate things so it can happen again, and again, and again; at will.”

“Can’t you fix the bug, close the loophole? That’s what normally happens. My cousin’s a software engineer, and he reckons it happens all the time.”

Something looking like smoke or steam started puffing out from between the Arikatoteshika’s four antennae. “Don’t you think I would have done that ages ago, if I could have?”

“You’re the Curator: curate!”

“Exactly, young Rodney. I’m the Curator. I’m not the Architect. I keep the place running, but I can’t change the underlying systems.”

“So what you’re telling me, Norman, is that there’s a hardware problem, and you’re a software man.”

“I am not a programmer, and stop calling me by my name!” he bellowed. Then, softening, “But you’re right. It’s something only the Architect can fix.”

“So why doesn’t he?”

“Because I’ve begged him not to.”

“What?… Why?”

“Because the only way to fix these leaks is to scrap the project and start again.”

“Ah.”

“Precisely.”

The scene in front of Rodney’s eyes faded to black. Rodney opened his eyes, blinked a few times, and realised he was back on the bed in his hut. Whatever this had been, it certainly wasn’t a helpful meeting. Except that he now knew that Hemi and Comet were now running the Smoke, and Wildcat the Settlement. The sound from outside of people shouting brought him back to reality. Rodney raised himself and went out to see what all the fuss was about. Jacob came running to him.

“Ingvildr was wrong, Rodney,” he said, still breathless from running.

“What do you mean, wrong? She can’t be wrong. It isn’t possible.”

“Look for yourself,” Jacob said, pointing first to the western horizon, then to the east. “Two moons, nearing full. It’s tonight!”

*see part 6


This is now a round-robin between Keith Channing and I.

If you missed a chapter, click to read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6,Part 7, Part 8, Part 9,Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16,Part 17, Part 18,Part 19,Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25, Part 26, Part 27, Part 28, Part 29, Part 30, Part 31

or Jump ahead to Part 33

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